Lesson 280

The Song of Twilight: Artistry

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Hello and welcome back. I'm Joseph Hoffman, and in this lesson we'll be talking about ways you can play "The song of Twilight" by Yoshinao Nakada with artistry. Let's come to the piano to get started. When I'm working on artistry with a piece, one of my first steps is to think about the mood that the composer wanted to create. So when you think of "The Song of Twilight," what kind of mood words come to mind? The composer often gives a clue here in the tempo indication. Now, I think we can do better than just quietly. That's a good start, but what other feeling words come to mind? How do you feel as you listen to this piece? I'd like you to pause the video and at the top of your music write in a few mood or emotion words that come to your mind as you think of this song. Choose two or three, write them down, then press play and I'll share what I come up with. The words I came up with were peaceful, gentle, and loving. Now you might have come up with different words and that's totally fine. Being an artist is making some choices about what this piece means to you. Now let's come down to the B section. Here I kind of feel a change in the mood here. how does it change for you? Can you think of a different mood word? It might be similar to what you had before, but I do feel a bit of a shift here that I want to think about as I play. So pause the video and see if there's one or two words that come to your mind as you play the B section. Then press play and we'll go on. Now this time I'm not showing you the word that comes to my mind because I want you to be the artist here, and choose what this part means to you. So now that we know what mood we're trying to create, let's go on to another artistic element. And the element I'd like to really focus on today next is tone. What is tone in music? Well when we talk about tone, we're talking about the quality of the sound. Is it a beautiful tone? Or is it a harsh tone? Tone is so important to a pianist. What is the quality or the nature, the inner beauty of your tone? We want in "The Song of Twilight" a beautiful round and clear tone. Not harsh at all. We absolutely don't want a harsh tone for this piece, but we also don't want a wimpy tone. Sometimes when I hear a pianist play at a piano dynamic level, the tone is too wimpy for my taste. Listen, here's a wimpy tone. See, that just makes me bored, and I want to just walk away or fall asleep, right? We still want an interesting, beautiful tone even when it's marked piano you can still make it exciting in its own quiet way. Whoops, let me start here at measure one. Hear how my tone still has some energy to it even though it's soft, I still make those 16th notes come alive. I can do a little crescendo there. One thing that will help me do that is use some arm weight, some arm motion. So I kind of lean into that a little bit with my arm. And then I think of floating up on that last note of the phrase to soften it. So I think lean in, then back off. I'm going to lean in again, and then I'm going to back off a little bit. Okay, now all of these things help create a beautiful tone. We're thinking about arm weight, we're thinking about phrasing. I find the most important way to learn to play with a beautiful tone is to listen. Listen with big wide open ears. Think, imagine you have elephant ears. They're so big they take in all the sound you're playing, and you're always asking yourself as you play, how does this sound? Is this beautiful? Is there anything I would change about this? Let your ears experience the sound as you play it, and then you can shape that sound. You can mold it into the beautiful phrase that you are imagining. I'd like you to pause the video and try maybe just right hand alone for a little bit, and work on a beautiful tone using some arm weight, some arm motion to help you shape each phrase. Remember, crescendo to the high note, and then back off. Pause to work on your phrasing and tone right hand alone, then try left hand together maybe also add in the damper pedal, and then press play and we'll work on another artistic element. Another artistic element that I'd like to focus on today is voicing. Voicing is so important to pianists because it helps the listener really enjoy that melody. In most pieces that you play, one hand will be playing the melody and often the other hand is playing the accompaniment. Which hand has the melody in the song of twilight? It's the right hand. And the left hand is just playing these repeating chords. So whatever dynamic level you see, I like to think of the accompaniment as one big step below that. So since it's marked piano i'm going to play my left hand pianissimo, maybe even pianississimo, which would be three P’s, and the right hand I'm actually going to put up a notch maybe to more of a mezzo piano. Now, one way that I like to practice voicing that I've shown you before, but I'd like to remind you, is to play the right hand as loud as you can, fortissimo, while the left hand just touches the notes. This is not how we want it to sound this is just for practicing voicing. So try this once, where right hand it's going going to play fortissimo while the left hand just touches the notes. Pretends to play without actually playing. Will you pause the video and try that just measures one and two. Fortissimo with the right hand, just touch with the left, then press play to go on. Okay, now what I'd like you to do is still fortissimo with the right hand, but left hand is now going to just barely play pianissimo. So as big a contrast as you could possibly make. Super loud in the right hand, super soft in the left hand. This is not how we want it to sound. Remember, this is just for practicing this very hard skill of making one hand louder than the other. So pause to try that now. Super loud, super soft, then press play to go on. Okay now we're ready for the final step. Now I'd like your left hand to still stay super soft, as soft as you can play it, but the right hand is now instead of playing fortissimo, let's try playing the right hand beautifully again. Okay maybe more between a mezzo piano and mezzo forte. So this is pretty much about how we want it to sound. But notice my right hand is way louder than my left hand still. This is the melody. It should be quite a bit louder than the left hand. So now pause one last time, and I'd like you to work on making the left hand pianissimo, super soft, while the right hand is singing out with a beautiful tone. Very different in volume from the left hand. Pause to work on that, and then press play to go on. Now sometimes when you're working on artistic elements like voicing or tone, it's helpful to take away some other elements like maybe stop doing the damper pedal. Remember, there's so much to think about sometimes it's helpful in practicing to pull away some things so you don't have to even bother with them so maybe take away the damper pedal. Take away the left hand and maybe just work on the right hand. Take away the right hand, just work on the left hand. Now maybe add back in the damper pedal, now maybe add back in the right hand. Pull away certain layers sometimes so you can focus on what you want to improve. Now when we're thinking about artistry, I also like to think about issues like legato versus staccato. In this piece, it's a very legato kind of piece. Here I'm in the B section measure 10 now. But here we get a little bit of a surprise. When I first played through this piece, I wasn't expecting to see staccato dots all of a sudden. But I think it can be kind of fun. I just, don't make them too shocking or sudden. I think we still need to keep the mood here. But we'll lift up the damper pedal, Kind of feels like tiptoeing to me right there. So make sure those staccatos don't break the mood. They still need to fit into the mood of the piece. And the last thing I wanted to suggest is like we've talked about before when you take the repeat sign back to the beginning, what are you going to do differently this time? In music, whenever we have something that repeats it's great to think of a way to make it a little different. Maybe you can play it even softer. Maybe instead of piano we're going to drop it to pianissimo. Or maybe you want to make it a little bit louder. What I like to do is play it even softer on the repeat, but then when I get down to measure five and we drop to the bass staff, sorry, yeah measure five. Now I'm going to get a little bit louder this time. So I kind of think of my repeat as having more contrast. My softs get softer, my louds get a little louder, but you might choose to do something different on your repeat. The repeat is an opportunity to show us some new side. Maybe a little bit softer, maybe a little bit more crescendos. It's up to you. So this week as you're practicing, every time you play choose an artistic element to focus on. Is it tone? Is it voicing? Is it damper pedal? Is it phrasing? And focus on creating the mood that you chose for the piece. Great work today learning how to play "The Song of Twilight" with artistry. Once you have it mastered confidently, please be sure to share your music with a friend or family member, or make a video and share it with me online. Thanks as always for watching and learning with me, and happy practicing! Okay, here's another nighttime joke. Why do you go to bed every night? Why? Because the bed won't come to you. Okay, here's one for you. What did one firefly say to her firefly friend? What? You glow girl!